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24 Mainland Tourists Killed in Taiwan Coach Fire

Twenty-six people have died after a tour bus caught fire on a highway near Taoyuan Airport in Taiwan.


The victims include 23 tourists and a guide from the Chinese mainland, according to Taiwan authorities. The other two were the driver and a tour guide from Taiwan.


There were no survivors from the bus, which, as images from highway surveillance cameras showed, was churning out smoke as it crashed into an outer lane barrier on the highway and caught fire.


The mainland tourist group was composed of 14 women, seven men, two girls and a boy. They were heading to the airport after an eight-day tour of the island, according to local authorities.


It took firefighters about 30 minutes to put out the flames, according to Taiwan authorities. The tour bus had a record of five traffic violations in six years of service.


An investigation into the exact cause of the disaster is under way, traffic police said.


Arrangements will be made as soon as possible for the relatives of the victims to go to Taiwan, said Man Hongwei, director of the Taipei office of the Association for Tourism Exchange Across the Taiwan Straits.


The State Council Taiwan Affairs Office has launched emergency response measures, said office spokesperson Ma Xiaoguang.


"We are highly concerned about the safety of our mainland compatriots," Ma said, adding that a work team will be dispatched to Taiwan to help handle the aftermath of the incident.


Taiwan's mainland affairs authority said in a statement that it would do its utmost to handle issues including the relatives' visits.


The mainland tourist group was organized by Liaoning Overseas Travel Service Company. The Liaoning provincial tourism bureau said it has set up a team to investigate the incident and is trying to verify the names of all the people who registered with the company for the tour.


Liaoning Overseas Travel Service Company is licensed to organize tours in Taiwan, said an official with the provincial tourism bureau.


The Tourism Bureau of Dalian City in Liaoning confirmed that 21 of the victims from the mainland were from Dalian, while the other three came from Heilongjiang, Jilin and Hunan provinces.


The Taiwan Affairs Office of Liaoning Province and its branch in Dalian will send a team to Taiwan on July 20 deal with the aftermath.


The government of Dalian has launched emergency response measures following the tragedy. A consultation hotline is now open and officials have sent condolences to the families of the victims.


(Xinhua News Agency July 19, 2016)

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